The story I want to share with you has been around since 1987. Emily Perl Kingsley is the author. She is the mother of a Down Syndrome child named Jason. Over the years she has done a great deal to improve the ways in which people with disabilities are portrayed in the media. She has won numerous awards as a writer for SESAME STREET and her work with the disabled. Her words have been reprinted in many languages around the world. This parable is so moving I wanted to share it with you. Emily said that she wanted to try to describe what it was like raising a child with disability. Like any good story her words transcend those with disabilities. They touch any grief and loss that we carry with us day after day. And this is how Emily puts it.
When you’re going to have a baby it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy the guidebooks. You begin dreaming of The Coliseum, Michelangelo’s David, the gondolas in Venice.
After months of anticipation the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Hours later the plane lands. The flight attendant comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland? What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy. I’m supposed to be there right now.”
Well, there was a change in the flight plans and the plane landed in Holland and you must stay there. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to this horrible, disgusting filthy place. It’s just a different place. So you have to buy new guide books. You have to learn a whole new language. You meet a group of people you would never have met.
Holland is different. It’s slower-paced than Italy. It’s also less flashy. After you’ve been there a while you catch your breath, look around and begin to notice windmills and tulips and Rembrandts.
Everybody you know is busy coming and going to Italy. They come home and talk about what a wonderful time they had. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, I was supposed to go there. That’s what I planned.”
And the pain of that will never, never go away because the loss of that dream is a powerful loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, lovely things about Holland.